Struggling with how to get employees to bring their full self to work? The solution is actually quite simple, focus on the power of higher organizational purpose.
Why you should believe in the power of purpose
Have you or anyone in your family served in the military? Do you know someone who has? Even if you don’t know someone personally, do you get chills at the football game when Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” plays over the loud speaker and all active and retired military are asked to stand to be recognized? Or do you let out a tear when you see a video of a parent being reunited with their child after returning home from tour? I even cry when dogs see their owners for the first time in months. Simple moments like this make us realize all that our military has personally sacrificed to keep our nation safe.
Now think about a time when you had to call your insurance company. Did they make you repeat “change coverage” to a recorded voice? Each time, your tone escalates and your pace slows until you’re finally screaming “CH-AN-GE CO-V-ER-AGE” into what feels like a black hole? Did you throw your phone across the room or just hit zero over and over again until you could get a real person on the line? And then the operator finally answers and asks ALL the same questions you just answered … you quickly jump in to say, “I just need to increase my collision coverage,” the words running together as you rush to let them out in a single breath. You’re thinking, this person has to be able to help … “please hold while I transfer you.” Elevator music starts playing, you drop back in your chair. The music stops, you perk up ready to ask your question, only to learn the interruption was just to announce: “your current wait time is twenty-seven minutes.”
General Joe Robles, former CEO of the United Services Automobile Association (USAA), on the other hand, led a positive, fully engaged call center with employees who often collaborated to go the extra mile for customers. How did they get there? General Robles believed that the single most important job he had as their leader was to “connect the people to their purpose.” At USAA, this purpose was to “provide extraordinary service to people who had done the same for their country – members of military and their families.”
Creating a Purpose-Driven Organization
A higher purpose is not about economic exchanges. Rather, it seeks to connect employees’ work to a deeper meaning. DTE, for example, illustrates their purpose through a video that highlights their own employees working hard and describes the impact they each make on the broader community – “the factory workers, teachers, and doctors who all needed the energy DTE generated.”
When an authentic purpose permeates business strategy the “personal good and the collective good become one.” Several benefits ensue: positive peer pressure, energy levels increase, collaboration is restored, learning accelerates, and performance results climb.
Robert E. Quinn and Anjan V. Thakor outline the eight steps it takes to transform teams into a purpose-driven organization:
- Envision an inspired workforce
- Discover the purpose
- Recognize the need for authenticity
- Turn the authentic message into a constant message
- Stimulate individual learning
- Turn middle managers into purpose-driven leaders
- Connect the people to the purpose
- Unleash the positive energizers
Connect employees to a purpose and they will bind together around that common goal and the results will delight you.
Adapted from Harvard Business Review’s “Creating a Purpose-Driven Organization” (Issue 96, Vol. 4).